Russell may have been wrong

Given the slow and painful journey of middle-aged twice-bitten love, I was a bit disconcerted to read today’s quotable quote in the NT News. It was by Bertrand Russell, and said:

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

I personally prefer another quote from the great man, which adorns the masthead of the Bertrand Russell Society website:

“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.”

But neither really captures the spirit as far as I’m concerned. Fortunately, this afternoon I received an email from blogger Francis Xavier Holden, who drew my attention to the website of a poet friend of his who goes by the nom de plume Frank Faust. Of the many poems on his site, I was taken with this one:

it should not cause surprise
that there are terrors
in the pre-dawn morning
at the coldest of hours
before darkness edges into light


the answer to your question
lies in the paradox
of a driving need
for distance and separation
operating in tandem
with the fear of dying alone


sometimes it seems
that there is a very fine line to walk
between mutual pleasures
and subtle exploitation


there is no real basis
for believing that
the co-location
of a toothbrush in the rack
holds significance beyond
courtesy and convenience


many things are done
in the name of love
these are however largely false
it is probably the case that
more importance should attach
to those acts which suggest endurance


it may not take long
on occasion merely a day or two
other times perhaps weeks
but do not doubt
that it will come
and negotiation will not
be of great assistance


it is useful on occasion
to consider implications
and their consequences
before rushing to assume
a vulnerable position


you may wish to reconsider
based on your own assessment
of the capacity you hold
to cope with misadventure


with the passing of time
there sometimes emerges
a level of equilibrium
from within which it is possible
to see things clearly
and with an acceptable sense
of perspective


We’re quite a bit beyond that point now, I think. Frank Faust’s many love poems (of which the one above is quite early in the sequence) depict a growth and deepening of love too, but then decay and loss. So maybe Russell had a point. I’m an eternal cautious optimist though, and I can’t be what I’m not. Nevertheless, these poems speak to me more truly than Bertrand Russell’s glib quote.

PS – While I’m on a late Friday arvo whimsicality kick, be sure to read this post by Christopher Sheil. And ask yourself the question: Are you (or is Chris) a cretan, fool, moron or lunatic?

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Link (the loon)
2022 years ago

I like this:
“it is useful on occasion
to consider implications
and their consequences
before rushing to assume
a vulnerable position ”

Chris would have all bloggers as loons, but some us are definitely loonier than the others!

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

Siggie Freud arrived in USA – famous.

As he stepped off plane.

USA reporter asks: “What is the secret of happiness Mr Freud” (side note – another nationality might have asked “secret of life”).

Freud replied: “To Work and to Love”

Reporter: “Mr Freud, but tell us, which part is the most important?”

Freud: “The and”

Peter Ransen
Peter Ransen
2022 years ago

All fabulous stuff.

2022 years ago

I can’t wait ’til this post scrolls off the top of your page. While I am often wrng, the headline is depressing for some reason.

2022 years ago

– a love poem to take seriously. Love is a very serious business and i think the key word in this one is endurance – romantic love and sweet fuck are there too – it’s not often the 2 ideas are together. funny that when a relationship is like in the movies it is fucked – when it is a calculating assessment of what consitutes a good life it works – falling madly in love is for those who have lots of time and space to spare – me? I’m busy.

2022 years ago

Russell we could keep it here indefinitely – the comment box mania is upon me – ‘wrng’ that’s how fonzie says it – remember in Happy Days when he had to admit he was wrong and tried really hard to apologise because Richie was his good mate?
– and he almost did it ‘wrng’.

2022 years ago

G’day jen,

While I would like to be able to say that my “wrng” was a conscious homage to the Fonz, it was nothing more than typing with a toddler on my lap.

At least a typo like that works better in a post where I am admitting I am often wrong than in one of those posts in which someone is claiming that nothing can go WRNG!